Friends?

“Be VERY careful about having friends of the opposite sex.  If you have a “friend” that you tell things to that you don’t tell your spouse, then you are creating a toxic situation.  Affairs don’t start in the bedroom; they start with conversations, emails, texts and communication that lead down a dangerous path.  Protect your Marriage!” ~ Dave Willis, iVow: Secrets to a Stronger Marriage
 
Day 360.  
 
I got blocked today on Instagram by a male follower with whom I shared a friendly and platonic relationship.  We have followed each other on Instagram for over six years.  We had never met in person, and rarely communicated outside of Instagram direct messages.  Over the summer, he reached out to me through text message, and we exchanged messages through the summer and the early part of this year.
 
We were starting to develop a real friendship, or so I thought.  He lives in Texas and because I knew that Texas experienced some rough times, I had reached out to him to make sure he was faring well through their ordeal.  In turn, he messaged me quite frequently to wish me a good day or to just check up on me.
 
Last week on Instagram he posted a video of his trip to Hawaii with a female companion, presumably his girlfriend.  I was happy to see that he had finally taken a vacation and even happier that he was with someone who made him smile the way he was smiling in his video and photos.  I gave a thumbs up on his posts, and he sent me a message with the thumbs up emoji.
 
Today I noticed he blocked me.  I am not mad or hurt, but I am a bit shocked.  I had never approached him in any sort of inappropriate way – if anything, he was the one who tried on several occasions to cross over from the friend zone.  I never bit on his baits, though, and had always kept it platonic.  I also never gave him any mixed signals and made it absolutely clear that I thought of him purely on a friend basis.  I have my own theories about why he chose to block me, but in any case, I am fine with his choice.  I am notorious for cutting off people at the first red flag I see, so who am I to judge when it is done to me?
 
But this begs the million dollar question:  Can a man and a woman truly be friends?  
 
I am interested to hear others’ thoughts.
 
 

Night Drives

“I hadn’t realized that music could unlock things in you, could transport you to somewhere even the composer hadn’t predicted.  It left an imprint in the air around you, as if you carried its remnants with you when you went.” ~ Jojo Moyes, Me Before You
 

Day 356.  Last Night was Friday night.  The girls and I drove around the city and ended up on the Lower East Side.  We parked the car and walked out in the blistering cold in search of a place to eat.  With the restaurant gathering capacity still limited to thirty-five percent, we settled on dining inside a bubble at this place called Route 66.

Photo credit: Route 66
 

The inside of the bubble was warmer, but by no means warm enough to take off your coat.  It’s uncomfortable to eat in such conditions, but even more uncomfortable to just sit there idle, so I ordered a cocktail and some french fries.  Not exactly healthy, but hey, you only live once.

After dinner, we got back into the car and drove around the city some more.  I swear to God, New York is so bloody beautiful.  We turned up the music in the car and with the lights of the city shining around us, it almost felt like we were in a nightclub.

Song: Breaking Me, Topic & A7S
Excuse the smudges on the windows.
 

Intangible Success

“I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.” ~ Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery: An Autobiography

Day 354.

I got a promotion at work this week.  It is long overdue, so I am not even excited about it anymore.  I am thankful about it though.  So many people are out of work and are anxiously waiting for the next stimulus check in order to make ends meet, while I am here flourishing in my career.  It does not seem fair somehow, but then again, I worked damn hard to be where I am in life, and so I do not apologize for my good fortune, but as always, I am, and remain, grateful that I have achieved some successes in life.

My brother, on the other hand, has not been as fortunate of late as I have been.  Troubled by his increasingly turbulent marriage and failing business due to the pandemic, my brother retreated back to the Philippines to reset his life.  My parents, ever judgmental, have not been very supportive of his decision to return home, albeit temporarily, and have been bombarding him with questions and accusations, and in short, have called him a failure.

Harsh.  But that’s how they have always been – tiger parents that have instilled in the minds of their children that if you are not successful (translation: rich), then you are a failure.  Or simply: a loser.

But, really, what is success?  A good job?  A good marriage?  To be able to afford a big house and a fancy car?  Why can’t success be something intangible, like achieving peace in one’s heart?  Why can’t one be considered successful if they are able to satiate the hunger for freedom in their soul, or dull the ache in their core to feel the fullness of life, instead of the emptiness in their heart?

In theory, my parents consider me successful.  I have a good job and a lovely daughter.  My brother has a failing marriage and a failing business, and his biggest crime: he has no children.

But in reality, my brother is more successful.  No matter what obstacles he has ever faced in life, he has always kept a positive outlook and is genuinely happy.  I, on the other hand, despite outward appearances, am prone to depression and  disparaging thoughts.  I am empty inside while my brother’s soul is rich.  To me, that is real success.

4 Markers

“We always think there’s enough time to do things with other people.  Time to say things to them.  And then something happens and then we stand there holding on to words like ‘if’.” ~ Fredrik Backman, A Man Called Ove

 
Day 353.  Yesterday, LilG turned fourteen.
 
Like all parents say when they realize their baby is no longer a baby, I say it now as well:  “I cannot believe it.”
 
For me, there are four distinctive markers of passing time:
 
Watching my baby girl transform into a young woman.  
 
The name LilG does not apply anymore. She is much taller than I am. She surpassed me when she was twelve. Her transformation, of course, is not just physical. She is more thoughtful now than she was, no longer having the typical selfish, youthful whims. She has become a planner and thinks about the future. The biggest sign of her transition from being a child and into the stages of young adulthood is her acknowledgement that all [of her] actions have consequences, good or bad, and she has to act in the manner appropriate to bring about the desired outcome.
 
 
Seeing my parents growing older.
 
My father will turn eighty-three this year, and my mother will turn seventy-nine.  Thankfully, they are both in really great health, mentally and physically, and aside from the normal limitations of their age, they are still active in body and sharp in mind.  However, because they live on the other side of the world and because I have not seen them in nearly two years due to the pandemic, it is still a bit jarring to see their faces on video chat and to realize that how I have them pictured in my mind and in my memories, is not how they actually are in reality.  At the risk of sounding morbid, they are both at an age where one starts to wonder how much [good] time they really have left.
 
Experiencing the natural decaying process of my own aging body.
 
Over the years, I have come to accept that my body no longer functions the way that it did when I was in my twenties.  If I am being honest, I will say that it does not even function the way it did when I was in my thirties, or even early forties.  Every year that passes by, I lose half a step, and another joint cracks or is in pain.
 

Realizing that many people who I love are no longer here on Earth.

This one hits the hardest.  My beloved sister passed away twenty-one years ago this month.  Twenty-one years.  She will have been gone longer than she was alive.  I have lost other people in my life, important people to me, whose absences still create a hole in my soul.  When I think of them and how long they have been gone, the reality of time cuts even deeper.
 

Scar Tissue

“The worst type of crying wasn’t the kind everyone could see–the wailing on street corners, the tearing at clothes.  No, the worst kind happened when your soul wept and no matter what you did, there was no way to comfort it.  A section withered and became a scar on the part of your soul that survived.  For people like me and Echo, our souls contained more scar tissue than life.” ~ Katie McGarry, Pushing the Limits
 
Day 347.  The days seem to get heavier and heavier.
 
I was fortunate last year that I was too busy at work to really feel the full blown effects of this pandemic, but the workload finally slowed down a bit during this first quarter of the year, and so the powers that be have been encouraging us to log offline early or use the vacation days that we did not use last year.
 
Idle time is dangerous for people with depression.  I am least depressed when my days and nights are consumed with work, and when I have down time or “free time”, my thoughts go dark, and  then I am caught in a black hole of despair and hopelessness from which I am certain there is no escape.
 
My daughter and I talk a lot, and that helps quite a bit, but she is at an age where she prefers the (virtual) company of her friends.  I understand that.  After all, I was once her age, so I try not to impose too much on her time.  
 
I read a lot, though nothing new – mostly rereading the old books I have.  There’s a certain comfort in knowing how the stories will end, and reading a story again can feel like visiting an old friend.  There is comfort in familiarity and so whenever I am feeling particularly lonely, I pick up an old book and relive the parts of the stories that make me feel like home.
 
Binge watching Netflix can be entertaining at times, but I found that I can spend an entire day just sprawled out on my couch.  I would feel a huge amount of guilt at the end of the day for not being productive, so I rarely watch television anymore.
 
The short of it is that I do not find anything pleasurable anymore.  Sure, I have my occasional trysts with NP and FF, but even that feels empty.
 
I get up every morning, put on my work face, smile when I need to smile, perform my duties at work and at home, exercise fanatically every night – basically live my life like a high functioning human being – but I am dead inside.
 
I know this just is just a cycle, and soon, I will feel better again.  But for now, all I can see in front of me is darkness, and during these times, I pray for nothing but everlasting sleep.
 

Melting Old Habits

“Be melting snow.  Wash yourself of yourself.” ~ Rumi, The Essential Rumi
 
New York got dumped with quite a bit of snow this year.  Two weeks ago, we had seventeen inches of snow.  This past week we only got a few inches, but it was a few inches on top of the snow that never melted from last time.
 
Texas got battered this past week with a severe winter storm, and many are left without power or water.  They are in a state of emergency with fifteen million ordered to boil water after a power failure.
 
So, I do not feel right complaining about the weather situation here in New York.
 
This was taken on 31 January – the first snowfall of the year. 
 
 
Of course, it does not look this pretty anymore.  It is now about 4 inches of brown and yucky slush.  I trekked in it this morning as I made my way to the Sunday farmer’s market they have in my neighborhood.
 
One of the many changes I made during this pandemic is my diet.  I have been eating primarily food that I cook at home, and not intentionally, I stopped consuming dairy products.  It was difficult to get fresh milk at the start of the pandemic, so I resorted to buying cartons of oat milk.  Additionally, it was rare for me to eat restaurant food so during the course of the year, my stomach became accustomed to digesting more natural foods.
 
On the way back home from the farmer’s market, I ran into a few neighborhood friends, and we decided to have brunch at a local restaurant.  New York is at twenty-five percent capacity at restaurants now, so we were fortunate to be able to dine indoors.
 
Within thirty minutes of eating restaurant food and drinking coffee with regular milk, my stomach started making noises and I felt that uncomfortable wrench of indigestion, and I immediately knew it was because my body was no longer accustomed to regular milk and restaurant food.
 
Because my body reacted so violently, I took it as a signal that I should not try to restore my pre-pandemic dietary choices, and to proceed with the new and healthier way of eating that I adopted this past year.
 
It it not lost on me that it took a pandemic to get me to start eating healthily.
 

Heart Restructuring

“The voice of Love seemed to call to me, but it was a wrong number.” ~ P.G. Wodehouse, Very Good, Jeeves!
It is Saturday, the 20th of February, in the year 2021.  It has been three-hundred and forty-two (342) days since the quarantine/pandemic started for me.  It has been nearly one year.
 
All in all, the pandemic has been good to and for me.  I feel horribly writing this, as I know so many people have suffered unimaginable losses, but aside from the long periods of sheltering in place and the limited social and physical interactions with society and people, overall I have done really well the last eleven months.  
 
Financially, I made more money last year than I have ever made in my life.  Corporate restructuring is my line of work, and as you can imagine, with the fall of the economy as a result of the pandemic and the shutting of businesses, I was busy, and this is stating it mildly.
 
Physically, I am in the best health and shape than I have been in years.  I started a fitness regime last year to stave off boredom, and I stuck through it this entire time.  The hard work has paid off.
In the physical relationship department, I also flourished.  A friend had introduced me to one of her clients, a Nordic pilot (“NP“) twenty years my junior.  He and I got on in September, and until now, we enjoy an easy, no-strings attached friendship.  With the massive age difference, we both knew that this “thing”would never develop into anything further, but we enjoy each other’s company whenever he is in town.  I genuinely like him as a person, and hope that even when the flames die, we will still be friends.
 
In October, I connected with a male friend who I met in 2014.  We were both in relationships when we first met, but we since have both broken up with our respective partners.  We decided to meet up one afternoon in October.  The sexual tension had been building up the last six years, and on that afternoon, we finally succumbed to it.  The reality was even better than the fantasy we both had created in our imaginations, and my only regret now is that we did not explore this opportunity earlier.  His touch is always so gentle, yet wanting, and oftentimes I find myself daydreaming about our interactions, replaying them in my mind over and over again.
 
He is a fantastic man overall – a loving son to his parents, a kind and caring brother to his sister, and a hero to the city as a firefighter (“FF“), and if the situation were only different, I really could see myself with him.
 
However, much like NP, he is much younger than I am.  Thirteen years younger, to be exact.  Better than twenty, but still too much.
 
And that’s where my good fortune ends.  
 
I realized that I was catching feelings for FF when one night in January, NP called to say he was in town and asked if I wanted to meet up.  I told him that I was feeling under the weather and said that I would catch him the next time he was back in town.  I sensed his disappointment, but I figured it was better than if he were to come over just to feel that my heart was not into it.
 
The truth was, I could not stop thinking about FF, and I felt guilty as though I were cheating on him with NP, even though he and I had not established any kind of commitment.  Even more so, I had broken my own heart when I had told FF early on that I was only looking for a FWB situation.  I am not sure why I told him that, but I can only imagination that it was for my own self-preservation.  Better for me to setup the hurt myself, than to be hurt by him in the likely event that once he bores of me, he would break it off with me and say “you’re just too old for me” or something to that effect.
 
I just don’t think my heart can withstand another breaking.
 
Matters of the heart are where I have never been successful.  Ever.  All other parts of my life may be flourishing and prosperous, but my heart has always been bankrupted.
 
I am an expert in corporate restructuring – I only wish I knew how to restructure my heart to make myself believe in love again.
 

Autumn in New York

“Why is summer mist romantic and autumn mist just sad?” ~ Dodie SmithI Capture the Castle

While the quarantine period ended sometime in May, we are still working from home and schools are on a blended distance and in-person schedule.  It is day 223 since they shut down the city.  More than half the year.  And in no time, 2021 will be upon us.

The summer came and went quickly.  I can count on my fingers the number of days I spent outside and actually felt a semblance of normalcy.

In late May, we took a drive to Connecticut.  They were the first state within driving distance of the city to open restaurants and public spaces.

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We had a lovely lunch at L’Escale.  After eating oatmeal and salads during the quarantine, this tasted like the best steak (and meal) I have ever eaten.

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In late June, we took a drive to the Hamptons.

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In July, we were tourists in our city.

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In August, we took a short trip to Saratoga Springs.

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In September, we stayed home and paid our respects to the fallen heroes of 9/11.

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And now it is October, and it is autumn in New York.

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There is a somber and dreary look and feel this season.  Or maybe it’s just me and my dark, depressive moods.  I always try hard to battle my ongoing depression, but this year has been especially difficult.  

I battle it every day by sticking to a workout routine.  I started using the pull-up bar, though I am still unable to do one proper pull-up.  I also started to work on my handstands, and I have done a solid job of sticking to a routine.  

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I even have abs now that are not covered under layers of fat and disappointment.  My fitness routine, and the positive side effects that come with it, is the highlight of my year.  Hey – I have to take the wins anywhere I can.

Vingt-Huit

“Try to imagine a life without timekeeping.  You probably can’t.  You know the month, the year, the day of the week.  There is a clock on your wall or the dashboard of your car.  You have a schedule, a calendar, a time for dinner or a movie.  Yet all around you, timekeeping is ignored. Birds are not late.  A dog does not check its watch.  Deer do not fret over passing birthdays.  Human alone measures time.  Man alone chimes the hour.  And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures.  A fear of time running out.” ~ Mitch Albom, The Time Keeper

Today is the 28th day of the quarantine for me.  Today is also Easter Sunday for the Roman Catholics and the Christians.

Yesterday was also my 49th birthday.

It is difficult to not feel despair and hopelessness during these uncertain times.  A general wave of gloom and irritation washed over me yesterday, and it was not lost on those who called to greet me a happy birthday.

One of my friends texted to wish me a happy birthday, and she asked, “What are you going to do today?

I was not angry with her at all, but I knew my response was snippy and mean as soon as I hit the  SEND button.

I’m going clubbing tonight.  Wtf do you think I am going to do?  My choices are limited to what side of the couch I am going to sit today, or what part of the apartment I will spend my day.”

I felt badly for being so bitchy, so I picked up the phone and called her.  She also felt badly and we talked about some of the difficulties she is facing in her own life with this COVID crisis.

As a little bit of a treat, I ordered pizza and seafood linguine from one of the few neighborhood restaurants that are still open for delivery.  For dessert, we had carrot cake that I defrosted from my Omaha Steaks order that was delivered on Thursday.  It was not the best birthday celebration, but neither was it the worst.  We just have to make do with what we have, right?  And always remain grateful no matter what.

Twenty

I was tired of doing much the same thing everyday. My friends pursued their course with uneventfulness; they had no longer any surprises for me, and when I met them I knew pretty well what they would say; even their love-affairs had a tedious banality. We were like tram-cars running on their lines from terminus to terminus, and it was possible to calculate within small limits the number of passengers they would carry. Life was ordered too pleasantly. I was seized with panic. I gave up my small apartment, sold my few belongings, and resolved to start afresh.” ~ W. Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence

I just finished the twentieth day of isolation/quarantine.  I did not leave the house this entire week.  The CV situation has reached a devastating level – over 3,500 have died already, with over 680 deaths in a 24 hour period.

I went outside today, only the third time in the twenty days that I have been in isolation.  It was a quick stop to the food market, and when I saw that the line was wrapped around the corner, I headed back home.  It took all of twenty minutes.

I have to admit that I had a hard time this week.  I know – I am not the only one.   This has been rough on everyone.  I still feel grateful in my heart that I am working and that my family is safe and healthy.  But if I am being honest, being grateful does not mean that I cannot hate being in what feels like house arrest, and feel anxiety for the uncertain future that we all face.

G was so bored this week that she cut her own hair.  Surprisingly, it turned out quite nice.  I was not happy at first that she did that, but after some thought, I realized that she has had to adjust to this quarantine life, and if something as innocent as cutting her own hair makes her feel better, than how can I be mad at that?

I dreamt last night of G.  She was younger in my dream, maybe six or seven.  I was standing in my living room, aware of the chaos outside, and saw that she had sneaked outside to play.  Behind her, as she was blissfully unaware of her surroundings, a Neanderthal-looking man was swinging around his firearm.  I screamed through the glass sliding door for her to come inside, but it was as if she could not hear me or the Neanderthal circling around her.  I frantically kept screaming for her to come inside, and I woke up right as the Neanderthal was about to close in on her.